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Indira's assassins glorified at Canadian Baisakhi parade

Top Canadian leaders stayed away from a controversial Baisakhi parade, which displayed pictures of Sikh militants in the city of Surrey near Vancouver.
IANS | By HT Correspondent, Vancouver
UPDATED ON APR 13, 2008 06:28 PM IST

Top Canadian leaders stayed away from a controversial Baisakhi parade, which displayed pictures of Sikh militants in the city of Surrey near Vancouver. Over 100,000 attended the parade, which is the largest such event by the Indo-Canadian community in the country.

Though there were no floats glorifying militant Sikhs during Saturday's parade organised by the Dasmesh Darbar Sikh Temple, its pro-Khalistan message was unmistakable, with its lead poster proclaiming: "We salute our great martyrs."

The organisers had put up an exhibition of pictures of "shaheeds" (martyrs) on the temple premises. On top of the entrance gate to the exhibition was written in bold letters: "Story of Sikh Genocide in India".

Among those whose photos were displayed were Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, the two assassins of former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, Sukha and Jinda, the killers of former Indian army chief General AS Vaidya, who is blamed for ordering the 1984 army action at the Golden Temple in Amrtisar to flush out militants, and leaders of the banned Babbar Khalsa and the International Sikh Youth Federation.

Under the headline "And those who betrayed the cause of the Sikh nation" were displayed pictures of Indira Gandhi, late president Giani Zail Singh, former home minister Buta Singh, late Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, and late Sant Harchand Singh Longowal, former Akali Dal president who had signed the Punjab peace accord with Rajiv Gandhi.

Also included under this headline was the top leadership of the Akali Dal, including Parkash Singh Badal, his son Sukhbir and Tamil Nadu governor and former Akali Dal leader Surjit Singh Barnala.

The pictures of the mutilated bodies of young Sikhs allegedly killed in staged state killings were also displayed.

Since their presence at last year's parade, which carried floats depicting militant Sikh leaders such as Air India plot mastermind Talwinder Singh Parmar, later became an embarrassment for them, most political leaders decided to stay away.

British Columbian premier Gordon Campbell left for Vancouver Island. Attorney-general Wally Oppal, who is the topmost Indo-Canadian in the provincial government, too didn't show up. Opposition leader Carole James too was absent as was Indo-Canadian MP Neena Grewal.

However, former Canadian revenue minister Herb Dhaliwal was present at the main stage at the Sikh temple, as were some other Indo-Canadian leaders, including MP Sukh Dhaliwal, former British Columbia minister Moe Sihota, and Jagrup Brar and Harry Bains, both MLAs.

"Everybody has a right to speech as long as it does not promote violence. So I have no problem in coming here," Brar told IANS.

Surrey city mayor Diane Watts walked with the parade under heavy security, but stayed away from the parade organisers.

The mayor and the city authorities had counselled the radical Sikh temple against displaying such floats as it condoned acts of violence.

Surrey is home to the largest concentration of Indo-Canadians, mostly Punjabis, anywhere outside of India. During the militancy in Punjab, it had become the hotbed of separatist pro-Khalistan elements.

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